The UK missed Tuesday’s deadline to hand in 28 regulatory equivalency assessments to the EU relating to Britain’s financial service industry – a crucial sticking point in current trade negotiations. Brussels needs to use these documents to conclude whether it grants the city of London lucrative access to EU markets when the transition period ends on December 31, 2020. Earlier this week, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier was left furious after confirming the UK had not completed the necessary equivalence assessments.
He said in a statement: “As you know, the political declaration committed us to ‘best endeavours’ to finalise our respective assessments by the end of June.
“The European Commission has therefore sent questionnaires to the UK, covering 28 areas where equivalence assessments are possible. So far, the UK has only answered four of these questionnaires. So we are not there yet.”
But the UK has instead blamed Brussels for the missed deadline, with the Government claiming it received the 1,000-plus pages of questions in April and May, with the last 248 pages arriving on May 25.
Boris Johnson’s official spokesman insisted: “We have completed our own proportionate and thorough assessment of the EU on time.
“What we are doing is returning over 1,000 pages of questionnaires that were sent by the EU to the UK late.
“These are straightforward assessments as we start from having similar rules and a history of co-operation and we are ready to reach comprehensive findings of equivalence once the EU has clarified its position.”
David Frost, who is heading up the UK negotiation team, will make it clear that time is running out for the EU to come to terms with a fair deal based on existing trade agreements with Canada and other countries. The warning was repeated to the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, an ally of Britain’s in the EU, by Mr Johnson in a telephone conversation yesterday.
But it comes amid concerns over the US elections where Britain is hoping to secure a trade deal with the EU with a warning in today’s Sunday Express from Nigel Farage that an anti-Brexit President Biden would “put Britain at the back of the queue” like Obama did.
With a UK team of 20 negotiators arriving in Brussels today to start the latest round of “intensive talks”, they have already dismissed the comments put out by EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier that October “will be the real moment of truth”.
A source close to the negotiating team said: “As we have repeatedly made clear, this is far too late. Businesses need clarity on the terms of transition as quickly as possible.
“The faster we can reach an agreement, the better – and there’s no clear reason why the broad outline of a political agreement can’t be reached in the summer.”
David Frost will warn the EU it is running out of time (Image: Getty / LNP)
The source went on: “This can’t be one-sided. It remains to be seen whether the EU will show the same willingness to put the time needed in to work through these difficult issues, especially when talks move to London.
“And the EU need to realise that these talks cannot be prolonged into the autumn.”
The change of tone from last year is an indication that Britain now has the upper hand in the talks.
The Prime Minister has ensured that his team continues to refuse to accept EU demands that Britain allows EU access to UK fishing waters or that it signs up to so called “level playing field” rules which would mean Brussels can dictate UK standards and laws with the European Court of Justice adjudicating.
The source said: “The EU will need to engage with this July process seriously, and show that they understand the fundamentals of our position – that the UK is never going to give in to demands which are incompatible with our status as an independent, sovereign country.
“The fact is that whatever happens in negotiations, the UK is leaving the Single Market and Customs Union at the end of the year. Our preparations for this are well underway, whether that’s with a Canada or an Australia style agreement with the EU.”
Ahead of the talks, Mr Frost said: “Negotiations over the next few weeks won’t be easy. There are still fundamental differences between our positions and a new process in itself isn’t enough to breach the gap.
“It will require dedication, willing and understanding from both sides.
Brussels may be able to dictate UK standards with the European Court of Justice (Image: Getty)
“We will work intensively and at pace, as we firmly believe it is possible to reach a broad outline of an agreement in good time.
“But any deal must reflect our well-established position on difficult issues such as the so-called “level playing field” and fisheries – that is, as an independent country we will have control over our laws and our waters. Our sovereignty will never be up for negotiation.”
Meanwhile, Brexiteers are urging the government to now look away from the “diminishing” EU and “malignant” China for trade partners and focus on India and the Indo Pacific.
A report by the Foundation for Independence chaired by former British Chambers of Commerce director John Longworth has argued that future of trade and prosperity in reigniting trade relations with India in particular.
The report noted: “The UK’s current relationship with India is falling far short of its potential. At 17th, the UK is languishing far outside the ranks of India’s key trading partners with bi-lateral trade worth a modest £20.5 billion.
John Longworth argues Britain must reignite trade relations with India for trade and prosperity (Image: Getty)
“The Department for International Trade should be more proactive in promoting the ease of doing business in the UK and highlighting the already positive perceptions of the country held by many in the Indian business community. India’s recent recommitment to the Commonwealth as a vehicle for economic collaboration offers an effective stage through which to cultivate improved trade links.”
Writing for the Express, Mr Longworth, a former Brexit Party MEP, bemoaned the post-war settlement which saw Britain tie itself to Europe.
He said: “As a consequence our weak and failed political establishment sold out, we turned our backs on our friends in the Commonwealth and signed up.
“Now, for the first time since 1940 and perhaps the last time in our long island history, we have an opportunity this year to chart our own independent course, trading across the globe, but over dependent on no one, reconnecting with parts of the world in this age of the World Wide Web that we did business with when business was driven by the wind and steam.”